Friday, December 15, 2017

Review: Supergirl #16

Supergirl #16 came out this last week and was a very fast moving issue focusing on Supergirl's continued problems with the DEO. I was impressed with the pace of this chapter giving us both superhero action as well as continued deepening of Kara's civilian life.

For me, the human scenes and the supporting cast are crucial elements in all comics, not just Supergirl. I need to see more than the earth-shattering punches (although I do love those). And I need to see the character interacting with those around them. So the scenes that writers Steve Orlando and Jody Houser give us of Kara with her parents and Kara and her school friends are so important to me. It gives us the chance to learn about who Kara is in noncombat situations. We get to see the viewpoints of those around her and how they effect Supergirl. So I am tickled that we have been getting more of that these last few months and definitely in this issue.

Add to that the bigger action sequences of Kara fighting Strange Visitor in this issue, the introduction of villain Deceilia, seeing how vindictive Mr. Bones is, the influence of Mokkari, and you get a very satisfying superhero story.

But writing is only half of this medium. And Robson Rocha, Daniel Henriques, and Michael Atiyeh really shine here. First off, the action scenes with the lightning effects of Strange Visitor are gorgeous and flow beautifully. Visitor is drawn with a lot of cheekiness. But it is again those personal scenes where I think we see their efforts sparkle. There is a lot of expressive work here which completely sell the scenes.

Enough preamble. Onto the issue!

The issue opens with an enraged and unhinged Strange Visitor just lashing out with electricity and calling out Supergirl. For some reason, Strange Visitor has an image of Supergirl reviving her, bringing her back from heaven. Strange Visitor had sacrificed herself to save the universe and achieved nirvana afterwards. You can understand why she would be unhappy.

For me, the big thing here is that means that Our Worlds At War, a deep cut, a pre-Flashpoint mega-event from the early 2000's, is back in continuity. That story had Linda Danvers. It had President Lex. It had older incarnations of other characters. So how much has snuck back in?

And yes, they do reference Superman #173 directly!

Strange Visitor is endangering citizens. The DEO is on the scene to try to stop her. And Kara is sitting at home with Jeremiah and Eliza, debating what she should do.

I'm not a big fan of Eliza and Jeremiah telling Kara to not help. I understand their feelings for her, their instinct to protect her. But at what cost? They didn't mind having her endanger herself with the DEO? Why not alone?

Once again, we hear a new Supergirl mantra. She chooses Earth, every dsy, so people can save each other's lives. I think this might be a new credo although I still like 'hope, help, and compassion for all.'

Now here is where things take a bit of a left turn. Mr. Mastrocola, the cyber-thief from issue #1, the man that Supergirl imprisons but then visits in hopes of inspiring, suddenly arrives in battle armor to try to stave off Strange Visitor.

He calls himself Insight. And I like that name because I assume it means that his interaction with Kara has given him new insight on life, that is, to become a better person.

But wasn't this guy in prison? Did I miss him being paroled? And did he make this armor? I have to go back. Or hope for some back story.

I also got a little Alpha Centurion vibe from him. Anyone else see that?

 He is only a guy in an electronic suit. Strange Visitor is an electric being based on a cosmic-level entity Kismet. He is no match for her.

Luckily Supergirl shows up and ends things. Maybe a bit too early to be honest. She scoops up Strange Visitor and roughly body slams her into the ground. And then the DEO arrives and goes all Ghostbuster, sucking her up into a containment unit and carting her off.

And they would've tried to grab Supergirl if it weren't for Insight and a flash grenade. Insight does say he knows everything the DEO is doing and what Mr. Bones motivations are. I suppose he is a cyberthief. So I like that he is an ally for Kara, even though captured.

The art is so beautiful here. There is something rather Benoist-y of the top panel. And you can read her sympathy. And that image of the screaming Visitor, stretched in the tube, is well done.

 You can see the machinations of the DEO in their headquarters. After all, they released Strange Visitor to attack Supergirl so that they could also send troops to capture her. They really have a vendetta against Supergirl ... maybe too much of one. Is it really her helping Zor-El that has vexed Bones so much?

At least we learn that it was 'conditioning' that made Strange Visitor think Supergirl hurt her.

 And that builds a bit when Bones talks to his latest agent, Deceilia.

She is some alien who tore apart her own world before being banished. And now on earth, Mr. Mokkari has made her a sort of brainwashed weapon for the DEO. I have never heard of her before. I don't know if I recognize the tech or wardrobe to place what planet she is from. Any ideas?

Bones ethics are interesting. He wants Deceilia to cause havoc to lure out Supergirl. But he forbids her to kill anyone. It is really all to trap Supergirl. Fascinating. I guess his thoughts of protecting the world is noble. But his means to that end, and his understanding of that end, are warped.

And then we have those quiet scenes that I love so much.

First we get a scene with the Danvers as they share a meal. I like the little quirk that the Danvers' are foodies, or at least willing to try anything, even chicken-fried steak at a mall food court. Again, Kara has to remind them that doing nothing is as bad as doing the wrong thing.

And then, officially, we meet Belinda Zee! Belinda Zee!!!

My instinct is that Zee will be a villain, all from her history in Cosmic Adventures. But Orlando and Houser really play up that she is a good kid. She chastises Ben and Kara for writing the anti-Supergirl pieces for CatCo. She wants Supergirl to do good. She volunteers in her spare time. Kara outright says that Belinda is 'nice'.

It's a trap!!!

But for now, Kara and Belinda are friends.

It becomes clear that during her fight with Strange Visitor, Kara suffered burns. Belinda notices them forcing Kara to come up with a lame excuse. (I do like the off the cuff 'Clark is clumsier' comment.) Maybe Belinda is going to put it all together and realize Kara is Supergirl? Maybe she'll turn Kara in, becoming a slight villain?

The idea that the DEO has agents in the school is a little crazy to me. Do they have agents in all schools? I know Supergirl calls National City home but she's Supergirl! Her base of operations could be 20 miles down the road in the suburbs.

Anyways, from their creepily asking for birth certificates to investigating Kara's burns (she gives a different excuse ... raising the specter of abuse), it is off putting. I suppose it is a comment on the times and the politics of illegal immigration.

I don't know how much money the DEO is paying Mr. Mokkari but it is too much.

Deceilia burns her way through her conditioning and just goes nuts. She heads to the seaport and just starts indiscriminately killing people. It forces Supergirl into action. But it looks like it might be a tougher fight than the prior.

Whew! That's a ton of story stuffed into 20 pages! We get two fights. We get some ethical discussion on the nature of heroism. We get Belinda Zee! And we get Insight!

I have to say, this comic is clicking right now. I think we have a new focus and a new direction. And the art is beautiful. The Artgerm variant covers are just spectacular.

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

The art was really gorgeous in this issue. There's this one panel when Kara pulls Strange Visitor up in the sky where the tremendous force Kara is pulling her up into sky with contrasts so beautifully with the care she does it with to not hurt her. I love it!

If there's one thing that bothers me with this iteration of Kara it is her lack of one really good friend. Ben is an aquintance at best and they have no chemistry. Babs could be that person, but Orlando isn't nurturing that relationship. This is a really lonely Kara, maybe even more so than she was when she was angry. At least she had Silver Banshee. My Christmas wish for this year is one superbest friend for Kara next year.

Anonymous said...

"For me, the big thing here is that means that Our Worlds At War, a deep cut, a pre-Flashpoint mega-event from the early 2000's, is back in continuity. That story had Linda Danvers. It had President Lex. It had older incarnations of other characters. So how much has snuck back in?"

Good question. As far as I know, no one has brought up Sam Lane's "death" back in that story arc, so maybe it didn't happen.

Neither "New Krypton" did, apparently. I'm miffed. Yes, the execution was flawed. Yes, the arc dragged out and ended with a whimper. Yes, the Lane family were turned into villainous zealots. But I enjoyed it on the whole, Supergirl shone and was fully integrated in the Superverse, and I liked the Nightwing-Flamebird dynamic.

"Once again, we hear a new Supergirl mantra. She chooses Earth, every dsy, so people can save each other's lives. I think this might be a new credo although I still like 'hope, help, and compassion for all.'"

I like "hope, compassion and help" better. "I choose Earth" sounds more forceful in my opinion.

I was very surprised to see Mastrocola back. My first question is: "Where did he get the armor from?"

"And then the DEO arrives and goes all Ghostbuster,"

That panel also screamed "Ghostbusters" to me. Which is funny because DEO's current director is a living skeleton.

Deceilia is intriguing. She can become a decent recurring villain or a lame one-issue-wonder. It depends on the execution.

Although, sincerely, if the writers need a powerhouse alien female villain to challenge Supergirl I'd rather get Reign back.

You know, at the beginning I was surprised because Belinda seemed genuinely nice... then I noticed her sidelong glance when Ocampo was talking to Kara. I agree, it's a trap!

"The idea that the DEO has agents in the school is a little crazy to me. Do they have agents in all schools?"

My theory is their investigation has narrowed Supergirl's whereabouts down.

"I don't know how much money the DEO is paying Mr. Mokkari but it is too much."

Hah! Indeed.

Martin Gray said...

As ever, your blog review and my blog review are separated at birth. So what can I say but, great review!

I like that you ask for theories on where Deceilia may come from, she’s reminding me of someone, a Legion character maybe... but I’ve not pinned her down yet!

Anon One is so right, Kara needs a pal. And you’re right, why is Kara taking all this hassle, she should move schools. And not use ‘Kara’ as a forename, it’s just asking for it. Hmm, ‘Linda’, maybe? And get rid of those glasses (she’s still wearing them when not in public!).

Anonymous said...

At this rate all of eliza's hair will turn white with how much she worries for kara but I am glad that she cares so much for her, it warms my heart that she thinks of kara like her own now. But the danvers are giving me man of steel's pa Kent vibes and yet I am excited to see how they reconcile their worry for her safety with what she wants to do. I loved the panel of her the dancers looking worriedly as kara goes to confront Sharon Vance. I have longed for such a family dynamic for kara that I am glad Orlando is finally giving it to us. Even if no one is in her corner at least Eliza and Jeremiah always will.

Also yes, Belinda zee...that's a trap indeed but as always will be nice to see the buildup.

I agree, kara needs a superfriend and I wholeheartedly want babs for that role. Supers and bats- can never go wrong with that combo.
I do think that perhaps kara is not changing schools because she likes the stability maybe and doesn't want the dancers to sacrifice more since they already had to leave their jobs at the deo.

As for reign...hmmm...I think that what Orlando is trying to do is create more canon villains for kara so that the 'she uses villains from Superman's stories' is not applicable anymore and since the tvshow is already doing that arc, I am sure Orlando would like to see how they do it so that there isn't a clash of ideas. I do think she can be the final boss though, the worldkiller stuff is too good to be abandoned as a one time villain.

And I love the kind of dynamism which the art brings to the pages, ypou can feel the power and force of Kara's strenth, absolutely amazing!

As always, overall great review anj

Anonymous said...

Yes, I really love that Orlando is expanding Supergirl's Rogue Gallery. I hope we get some time to see them grow into a natural part of her mythos. Not everyone might succeed but throw a few on the wall and some might stick. I.e. I consider Rhea and Thomas Colville part of Supergirl's gallery now and I think at one time or another we will see them again in other mediums.

Anonymous said...

A worthwhile rogue's gallery for Supergirl is always a priority going back to the silver age, where Orlando innovates in this issue is by creating a supporting HERO for the book's extended cast and someone Kara has "reformed" in the bargain.
If I had to call it, I'm thinking Ben will end up going complete supervillain on Supergirl he seems to be drifting down that path, Belinda Zee will likely be a more complicated "real life rival" for young Miss Danvers. I'm waiting for Eliza to show up at HS and demand to know why armed agents of the Federal Gov't are harassing her daughter & school mate...go fer it Eliza! Demand to see a Warrant Issued by a Judge...
Agree with the above poster, if Ben goes Rogue and Belinda becomes a "Veronica" that kinda leaves a gap for "SuperBestie"....Babs is a good start IMHO...but I'm sure the right character is simply waiting to be created.


Anonymous said...

The variant cover seems to sell the issue by itself. And our Kara is that cute Supergirl next door

Uncle Screensaver said...

I was shocked that the Imperiex War was mentioned, and a direct reference to when she died. I wonder if Sharon is from a Pre-Flashpoint time, or if this is a Rebirthed one, where Kara taking over from herself as Linda, as Kara recognizes her as if she had been there. It also made me think of DC Universe: Legacies where Kara, Matrix and Linda were all acknowledged.

As for Belinda Zee, it was interesting to see amother kind of "Kara Danvers," the glasses with an 80's Linda Danvers style of hair and a more conservative dress. I didn't originally get a villain vibe from her, but reading the review and comments here I wonder if she is a trap - maybe she knows more than she's letting on, trying to win Kara over only to betray her.

Regarding Kara's friends, or lack thereof, it reminded me of Pre-Crisis Kara because while she had Joan and Johnny O., she didn't really have any real confidantes. Babs became a best friend with Crisis, but prior to that they didn't seem to know each other's secret identities. Barry Allen seemed to be close to her with that super team up with the Ray, and they were seen in promotional artwork together, and the Crisis novelization made them close, but outside of her cousin, or Brainy, she was such a loner - I think in part because the writers would rip her out of her settings so often. Anyway, I wish that she and Barry would be close as they are on TV. Those two will always be linked because of Crisis, and if Convergence stil exists, pre-COIE Kara and Barry left together. Having a Supergirl/ Flash crossover would not only tie into the TV series but it would be a fresh dynamic. Either that or have the Green Arrow/ Supergirl World's Finest team as in Justice League Unlimited.

Uncle Screensaver said...

I do miss the friendships pre-Flashpoint Kara had, she was close to Wonder Woman and the Amazons, Jesse Quick, and the Robin's (minus Jason Todd) Actually, I wish they'd reinstate the friendship she had with Dick Grayson, their big brother/ sister relationship was fun, and it tied in as to how they were the original partners of Batman and Superman. With Donna Troy, they were cemented as the "next" Trinity, and elevated Kara's status to being more of the power player she was pre-COIE (as in being above Teen Titans' sidekicks and being the second most powerful DC hero - The Answer Man said so!).

Another friendshp they could introduce could be Martian Manhunter as it not only ties in to the TV show but adds to the familiarity they seemed to have in Justice League Unlimited - J'Onn referred to her by her first name, not just her code name.

Uncle Screensaver said...

Back to the issue at hand, I hope that the art stays like this. It's so nice to read a Supergirl comic with good art, and hopefully the title will get a better reputation than the Rebirth volume has had. Whlie I do wish there was more, uh, insight into Insight (and, yes, I did think of Alpha Centurian, but also that one guy in the 90's version of The Outsiders,) I enjoyed the quick pace of the story, great action mixed with slower and poignant personal moments. It's one of the better issues of a lot of Supergirl comics, and I hope that this recent writing continues - it reminds me of Gates' and onward stories of Kara - not bogged down by indecision and anger. I found the Danvers' concern to be less Snyder's Pa Kent to more in line with PAD's Danvers, in that they have accepted having a daughter that is one of the most powerful beings on the planet but still vulnerable and not wanting her to be hurt.

These Danvers are still getting to know Kara and as DEO agents they see a scenario where Kara could be neutralized and where she couldn't help others. Since the beginning, we've seen how Kara isn't just a detail or project but where they truly consider her to be their daughter. They're more vulnerable now, and being "stay at home parents," for lack of a better term, they have been focusing on keeping Kara safe and with their background don't see how powerful Kara is when it comes to hope and determination. In addition, I think Supergirl's parents are being written in a way to underscore just how courageous she is, her level of compassion, determination, hope, bravery and heroism. For so many years we've had to deal with a cold and bitter-angry Supergirl, and so I think that there's an urgency to depict her in a positive way. Across media, despite any character flaws, Supergirl is being shown as someone who is a beacon of hope - from Injustice 2, Gotham City Garage, her TV series and now in her own title.

Regarding using her given name as opposed to "Linda," it reminds me how stuck I am in pre-COIE mode where everyone seemed to know Superman and Supergirl's Kryptonian identities. The public all knew about Superman's origin story, but I wonder how many know about them now. I think that's why there's another reason people are shown as being fearful of Supergirl, what do they know about her other than a super powered alien who recently chose their city as her base, her father tried to do a Darth Vader and destroy them, and then super villain attacks are a given thing. It's like how in the TV show the dad tells the family they're moving back to Gotham City, but I digress. Superman and Supergirl are written now where they can be as bad as the villains they fight as opposed to being given police powered by the U.N. where the world loves them. (Did the negative view begin in Legends, or was it more from Superman: TAS?)

Anyway, I'm excited to be excited for Supergirl's title again.

Uncle Screensaver said...

Duh, Lena. They need to somehow have Kara and Lena BFF again. I think she was really Kara's closest and best friend in pre-COIE times, and with the Cosmic Adventures and the TV show, not to mention "Best Frienimies" on DC Super Hero Girls, let's have that with her title. Or, is Belinda Zee going to be Superior Girl and be a best frienemy or rival? WIth Lena, though, they could have a redemption arc and Kara helps her on that path. Or, even bring back Buzz, :P

Aaron said...

I would love this to be a twice-a-month title. But I understand why it isn't. When I read Supergirl each month, it is so engrossing; it paints her world so beautifully, that it feels like I hardly read any pages at all before I reach the issue's end.

Anonymous said...

If it was up to me I'd chuck up the money for a daily issue if they could staff it up. Alas it is not. The world is still where a guy in blue and red sells more issues than a girl in blue and red.

Aaron said...

"The world is still where a guy in blue and red sells more issues than a girl in blue and red."

Unfortunately you’re correct.
I love Kara’s empathy and the emphasis on her compassion; when reading this title I truly feel that these traits are who this character is; she is well written. I love the work Steve Orlando has done on Supergirl and is doing currently with Jody Houser. It is a small, but a great, source of escapism once a month.

Anj said...

Thanks for all the great comments.
It’s clear this book is starting to click.

I do wonder if Belinda is going to be lured to the dark side by the chance for fame or notoriety.

Aaron said...

I hadn’t considered that, Anj. Belinda's character will indeed be interesting reading as it develops. Wasn’t fame and/or notoriety Harley Quinn’s motivation for applying to work at Arkham Asylum in Paul Dini’s ‘Mad Love’? Those motivations rarely end well.